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01 December 2023 / 18. Jamaad-Ul-Awwal 1445

The Labayk Series: Preparing spiritually for the journey of a lifetime

This series of articles entitled 'The Labayk Series' has been written by a guest writer and aims to give those who have been blessed with the opportunity to go to Hajj this year a guide for their travels, inshAllah.

About the author:

Rabab Kassam earned her Undergraduate and Master’s degree with Honors from the University of Nottingham, England. She has been a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain and of the General Pharmaceutical Council. She is currently a member of the Regulatory body of Pharmacists in Ontario and practices in Canada where she lives with her husband. Rabab has used her clinical skills as a pharmacist and helped people with medicine checks and reviews, drug consultations, minor ailments and healthy lifestyle advisement amongst other pharmacy services. When she has not got her science cap on, Rabab spends her time writing about various topics on her blog. She enjoys painting, reading and is very passionate about exploring and travelling the world.

Preparing spiritually for the journey of a lifetime

What an absolute privilege it must be for the 3 million people who are chosen each year to embark upon the pilgrimage of Hajj. Hajj, one of the pillars of ‘Furu-e-deen’ is a journey and an experience mandatory for Muslims provided they are financially and physically able to fulfil this commandment of Allah (S.W.T) to mankind.

Hajj is not a 2 week family vacation to Saudi Arabia, it is in fact an intense act of worship which involves going to the Holy city of Makkah, Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa. Keeping that in mind, it is important to acknowledge Hajj as not just a physical journey, but a spiritual one too.

When presented with the opportunity to go for Hajj, one must know that this is indeed a once in a lifetime opportunity for many people and in order to make the most of this trip, preparation is key.

This article will look at why spiritual readiness is of essence in successful completion of this journey and how as Hujaaj, we can attempt to prepare our mind, body and soul for this journey

Besides it being an obligation, what is the reason people go for Hajj? It is an essential question to ask yourself as you start your preparation. Generally, most people do so with the intention of getting closer to God and asking for repentance of past sins with the commitment to avoid further wrongdoing. For us to realise our goal, we need to put some thought and reflection towards our personal intention and for it to materialise, we must spiritually prepare ourselves for the experience.

But before we can find ourselves in the right frame of mind to maximise this experience, we must be physically and mentally ready. We have all heard about the heat and strenuous activities involved in the ritualistic aspect of Hajj. Having this knowledge it is important to ready our bodies in the months prior to our trip. We can do so by building our strength and endurance through routine exercise regimes slotted in our daily life in the form of 30 minutes three times a week. If your body is exhausted on the deserts of Muzdalifa, it will be difficult to stay truly connected to your goal because the mind may be distracted by the body’s suffering. The health of our bodies is in our control and I feel that the time and energy you invest in fitness, you will be rewarded in mindfulness during your journey.

When it comes to mental awareness about Hajj, know what is it you are going to do. Spend some time reading and understanding the spirit of the rituals. Don’t completely rely on your group and robotically follow the crowd in the acts they do. In doing so, your journey will be linear instead of spatial and the whole idea of this experience of Hajj is to truly benefit from it in all dimensions. A lot of communities organise Hajj workshops and seminars. These are a good place to know what to expect from the trip and understand the historical aspects of the rituals. To suddenly be present amongst millions of people from all walks of life can prove to be overwhelming and thus distracting for many. Meditation is a great way to prepare ourselves to have that single minded focus such that despite being in a crowd, we can feel that one to one connection with our creator. Yes, there will be distractions, climate might not be ideal, you might find yourself in a group of complainers, places will be crowded, there will be long queues and sanitation may be sub-par. Know that this is a part of the experience and be ready to overlook it for reaching the greater purpose of your journey calls for these tests and challenges. Find contentment in the fact that you and the people around you have been specifically handpicked by the Almighty to be present there at His symbolic house. Prepare and make adequate arrangements for the people you are leaving behind. Once you begin your journey and travel across the seas, leave their wellbeing to the Almighty. He is after all, the ultimate protector. As your mind acknowledges and accepts the changes you will experience, you will find yourself in the perfect position to spiritually prepare for the experience.

You are getting ready to visit the Holy Kaaba and salute your creator and beg him for forgiveness, therefore evaluate yourself before this journey. Find out what you want to change about yourself for the better and what the temptations you need to fight are. With your mind and body on your side, your soul is now in need of that cleansing. Maintain that focus throughout the journey and be spiritually ready to disconnect from the masses around you. As you stand on the land where the greatest once stood, under the skies where the greatest once spoke, looking at the Holy Kaaba which was built by the Prophets within which the commander of the faithful was born, lower your head in humility and surrender yourself to the most majestic, the ever kind and ever merciful Allah (S.W.T). Carry this feeling of humility and manifest His attributes of kindness throughout your journey, and let it not end there. Make a commitment to carry this feeling with you even after you have left the blessed land through this other journey we are all on.

Let your soul truly bathe in absolute divine mercy and take with you all the good habits you develop over the Hajj season and implement them in your day to day life. Put your hand on your heart, and with your mind, body and soul, say Labayk, Alahuma Labayk.

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